Police strike back at Bay criminals

By Kiri Gillespie

Overall reported crime in the Western Bay policing area plummeted more than 13 per cent last year, but homicides and related offences and sex crimes skyrocketed.

Crime figures for 2011 show reported crime in Western Bay of Plenty fell 13.8 per cent, which was the largest drop out of all four areas that make up the wider Bay of Plenty police district.

Homicides and related offences doubled from four to eight, and sexual assault and related offending rose from 84 to 122, a 45.2 per cent rise.

Western Bay acting area commander Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair said the total drop was pleasing and he thanked the community and strategic partners for working together to make the region a safe place to live.

Mr Wright-St Clair said the gains made in dishonesty crimes were especially welcome because burglary, theft and thefts from cars "touch the most victims of any crimes in our community".

Burglary dropped 5.3 per cent and thefts dropped 9.9per cent.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Property damage was another area that affected communities but was down 23.5 per cent.

Mr Wright-St Clair said many factors affected these crimes, including local and overseas trends around graffiti.

Offences against public order, which usually involved alcohol-related offences, had dropped by 21.9per cent.

Mr Wright-St Clair credited this to the work police, licensees and strategic partners had done.

"Just this weekend police ... conducted (a) controlled purchase operation on 11 licensed premises and none of them sold alcohol to the underage volunteer," Mr Wright-St Clair said.

"Licensees have also been acting responsibly by not allowing intoxicated persons into their premises especially in the CBD."

Ken Evans, Sensible Sentencing Trust organiser for the Bay of Plenty, agreed the crime figures were positive but said changes were still needed to bring down the violent crime statistics.

"The stats are, by and large, across the country, a great improvement. We have been trying to make our country a safer place and we think it's paying off.

"[But] not every stat has gone where we want it to and there's lots of work yet. The serious crime needs attention," he said.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the drop in reported crime numbers in the Bay was heartening.

"It shows that, contrary to what some may say, tougher criminal laws combined with an emphasis on front-line policing can really make a difference.

"It's worth emphasising [too] that these decreases in crimes ... have occurred in recessionary times where you think crime might go up. So that makes the figures all the more heartening," he said.

Total recorded crime fell 5.6 per cent in the Bay of Plenty police district last year.

Rotorua recorded a decrease of 5 per cent but the Eastern Bay of Plenty area had an increase in crime of 8.2 per cent (an increase of 439 reported crimes) and the Taupo area had an increase of 0.6 per cent (46 reported crimes).

Bay of Plenty police district commander Superintendent Glenn Dunbier said the figures showed good progress but also reflected the need for a continuing focus on preventing crime.

"Our focus is on contributing to confident, safe and secure communities, so that that people are and feel safe and reassured in their homes, in the street and on the roads," Mr Dunbier said.

"We will do this and help prevent crime by being visible, identifying and managing repeat locations, offenders and victims, working in partnership with our communities, providing easy access to our staff and our services."

Bay of Plenty's resident population rose 0.6 per cent in the same period and when this is taken into account, the total crime rate dropped 6.2 per cent per 10,000 population.

Mr Dunbier said the police would remain focused on preventing crime and the region's most vulnerable, including children, repeat victims and those subject to violence, including family violence.

Nationally, the lowest number of murders for the past 15 years was recorded last year as part of an overall drop in recorded crime.

The statistics for the year ended December 31, 2011 showed 406,056 offences were recorded compared with the year before, for a drop of 20,289.

New Zealand's resident population rose 0.8 per cent and, after taking that into account, crime fell 5.6 per cent.

Thirty-nine murders were recorded compared with 2010, which is the lowest number since 1995.

However, sexual offences rose by 14.9 per cent, or 450 offences, on the year before.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the results were a good sign police and the public were serious about reducing crime but there was still much to do.

"These results show us that we're on the right track with our frontline focus and the work we're doing with communities and other agencies to prevent crime from happening in the first place.

"It just motivates us to do even more to keep the downward trend going. We stay firmly targeted on bringing crime further down across the board."

Canterbury had the biggest decrease, at 22.2 per cent, followed by the southern region down 13.1 per cent, Northland 10.5 per cent and Bay of Plenty 5.6 per cent. However, crime increased by 8.3 per cent in Auckland City and 1.7 per cent in Waikato. The resolution rate was steady at 47 per cent.

Police Minister Anne Tolley said the 5.6 per cent drop in recorded crime per head of population followed a 6.7 per cent per head drop in 2010.

"These are great results, and mean we have safer communities and far fewer victims of crime," Mrs Tolley said. "The vast majority of police districts show reductions in offences but increases in Auckland City and the Waikato highlight the need for more to be done, and we will continue to tackle crime head on."

The latest figures also showed:

Assault-related offences fell 5 per cent (down 2237 offences);

Drugs offences reduced 9.8 per cent (from 22,995 to 20,739);

Theft and related offending, which makes up more than 30 per cent of all recorded offences, dropped 1.1 per cent (down 1490 offences). However, vehicle theft rose 733 to 20,724, while thefts from cars dropped 495 to 38,174;

"Last year saw New Zealand dealing with significant events. We dealt with devastating lows like the Canterbury earthquakes and experienced highs like the Rugby World Cup," Mr Bush said.

"This continued drop in crime is a good indication that, at a fundamental level, New Zealand is fed up with crime and serious about getting the numbers of offences down."

Police wanted to capitalise on that by increasing the focus on working more closely with communities and other agencies to stop crime before it happened by addressing risks which led to offending.

"These results are one indicator we use to tell us what's working, where we can do more, and where our resources should be pointed.

"More and more we know that effective policing is about having the right people in the right place at the right time; this includes taking opportunities to address the risks of offending while keeping our frontline strong and active in addressing crime."

The results were positive but Mr Bush said that did not mean police would lose focus as one victim of crime was one too many.

Editorial, page A8

Additional reporting APNZ

- Bay of Plenty Times

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